Lisa Ling Pleads for Her Sister’s Release
Lisa makes appeals on Facebook and in media to save her sister, imprisoned in North Korea
It’s every sister’s worst nightmare: your sibling in peril and nothing you can do to save her.
Lisa Ling is tormented by that helpless horror right now, making a flurry of media appearances and impassioned Facebook pleas this week in the hopes of rescuing her journalist sister, Laura Ling, who’s been held captive in North Korea since March 17.
This story hits frighteningly close to home for me. My younger sister interned at National Geographic Television at the same time Lisa Ling was there working on a hidden camera documentary about North Korea. That existence of that 2006 documentary – in which Lisa pretended to volunteer for an eye doctor in order to gain access to North Korea – may now further endanger her own sister’s safety.
Imagining my sister in such dire, dangerous straits is an exercise in torture for me. But it’s one that I’d guess every sister, brother, mother and father has indulged and can understand.
The idea that my sister could be imprisoned for doing her job, the idea that she would end up at the center of a nuclear stand-off, the idea that her life could be at risk and that I couldn’t help her – sends chills through me.
What would I do to help her? How could I save my baby sister – now a symbol in the center of a gathering geopolitical hurricane?
Lisa has worked privately with government officials attempting to secure the release of Laura and fellow journalist Euna Lee, who are both reporters for former Vice President Al Gore’s Current TV. But with Laura and Euna facing trial Thursday – and quite possibly a lengthy jail sentence – Lisa has gone public for the first time this week.
Putting on a brave face, she appeared on the Today show yesterday, saying her family is “terrified,” about Laura’s fate. “We don’t know what to expect,” she said.
Lisa has also found unexpected comfort in Facebook, where she’s keeping an online vigil for her sister. While it’s unlikely Laura can read the posts – North Korean officials have allowed only very limited contact from Laura’s and Euna’s families – Lisa says Facebook is helping her cope with this trauma.
She told ABC’s Nightline, “I’ve been at home, late at night, feeling emotional, and I’ll post something so intensely personal on Facebook, so random, I’ll just type, ‘I miss you Laura.’ And I don’t know who’s reading it. But I after hit update, I’ll think to myself, ‘Why did I just post that for thousands of people I don’t know to see?’ And I think the reason is because there is no support group for this. For some reason, when people I don’t even know, send me a message that says, ‘We support you,’ ‘We’re praying for you,’ ‘We’re behind you,’ somehow that there’s the strangest comfort in that.”
Lisa also has plans to talk with CNN’s Anderson Cooper today and appear at a Los Angeles vigil on Thursday.
Unfortunately, the outlook for Laura and Euna appears increasingly dismal. The two reporters are accused of committing “hostile acts” and crossing illegally from China into North Korea. Experts say that escalating tensions between Pyongyang and Washington over North Korea’s flagrant nuclear testing have turned the upcoming trial into a “political litmus test.”
Marcus Noland, a North Korean expert from the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told the Los Angeles Times, “If I were these two women’s families, I’d be very worried.”
“Even in the best-case scenario, North Korea sees these two as criminals who were presumably up to no good in a very serious way,” he said.
“They want to show their enemies that if people do things like this, illegally enter their country, they will pay a price. And the new tensions have raised the stakes even further.”
How terrifying that quote must be for the families of Laura and Euna. I can only imagine the horror they must be living.
According to People, Lisa read a letter from Laura (dated May 15) at a recent vigil:
“When I first got here, I cried so much. Now, I cry less,” Laura’s letter says. “Some days I get to go outside and get some fresh air. In the early evening, I do some stretching. I also sit and meditate. I breathe deeply and think about positive things that have happened in the day. For example, I think ‘I’m lucky I made it through another day.’ I’m lucky my family is working so hard to get me released. I’m thinking of you constantly and how fortunate I am to have an amazing family. Stay strong and please take care of yourselves. That is my request. Know that I’m thinking of you and dreaming about being reunited with you all again.”
Laura, Euna, Lisa and all of your families – know that we are all thinking of you and dreaming of that day as well.
Read more about Laura’s capture: Why was Lisa Ling’s Sister Arrested Abroad?